Timeline of The Catholic Church in Australia

by Tracey Rowland

A timeline of key events in the Church’s history in Australia


1606 Spanish naval captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros calls Vanuatu “La Australia del Spiritu Santo” – Southland of the Holy Spirit

1616 Dutch sea captain Dirk Hartog landed on western coast of Australia

1627 Peter Nuyts sails along eastern shore of the Great Australian Bight

1642 Abel Tasman discovers what is now called Tasmania, but which he called Van Diemen’s Land.

1688 The English pirate William Dampier spends nine weeks on the north-west coast of Australia

1697 William de Vlamingh lands on Western Australian coast

1770 Captain Cook explores Australia’s east coast

1778 Arrival of First Fleet at Sydney Cove

Possibly first Mass was said on Australian soil during this year by Fr. Receveur

1802 Foundation of Christian Brothers by Edmund Ignatius Rice, Ireland

1803 First public Mass said by Fr. Dixon

1808 Rum Rebellion in New South Wales

1813 Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson cross the Blue Mountains

1817 Arrival of Fr. Jeremiah O’Flynn “Prefect-Apostolic of New Holland”

1818 Fr. O’Flynn deported after the British Colonial Office opposes his appointment

1820 Frs. Therry and Conolly, the first official priests arrive

1821 Construction of first Catholic church at Richmond, Tasmania

1823 New South Wales Judicature Act establishes the Legislative Council of NSW

1825 Tasmania established as a separate colony from NSW

1829 Foundation of the Swan River colony

1833 Fr. Ullathorne arrives in Sydney as Vicar-General

1835 Bede Polding becomes Australia’s first Catholic bishop

1836 Fr. Ullathorne publishes book criticising harsh treatment of convicts

Proclamation of the colony of South Australia

1838 Arrival of Caroline Chisholm in Australia

1839 Arrival of Fr. Patrick Geoghegan in Melbourne

1840 Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand

1841 New Zealand becomes a British colony

1842 Beginning of Representative Government in Australia

Appointment of Robert Wilson as first Archbishop of Hobart

1845-70 Period of Maori Wars in New Zealand

John Brady appointed Bishop of Perth

Archbishop Polding complains of injustice to Aborigines at NSW Parliamentary Committee Meeting

1846 Dom Salvado begins New Norcia Abbey in WA

1847 James Alepius Goold becomes first Catholic bishop of Melbourne

1848 The Catholic Church in Australia is divided into provinces and dioceses

1850 Establishment of the University of Sydney

1851 Beginning of the Gold Rush

Victoria becomes a separate colony from New South Wales

Fr. Patrick Dunne celebrates Mass on the goldfields of Ballarat

1852 Abolition of transportation of convicts to Eastern Australia

1853-76 Period of transition to self-government for New Zealand

1852 Fr. Henry Backhaus begins to say Mass in a tent on the goldfields of Bendigo

1853 Establishment of the University of Melbourne

1854 Eureka Stockade, Ballarat

Establishment of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Australia

1855 8 hour a day policy accepted for workers

1857 St. Vincent’s Hospital opens in Sydney

1859 Queensland declared to be a separate colony James Quinn appointed as Bishop of Brisbane

1861 Mercy Sisters arrive in Queensland

First Melbourne Cup Race

Beginning of Gold Rush in New Zealand

1865 St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney destroyed by fire

1866 Mary McKillop and Fr. Julian Tenison Woods found Sisters of St. Joseph

Daniel Murphy appointed second Archbishop of Hobart

1868 Christian Brothers arrive in Melbourne

Re-building of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney begins

1869 Bishops’ Pastoral Statement complains of injustice to Aborigines

1871 Completion of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat

Timothy O’ Mahoney appointed first bishop of Armidale

1872-85 Colonial governments end state-aid to Church schools

Marist Brothers open their own school at the Rocks, Sydney

1874 University of Adelaide established

Diocese of Sandhurst established and Rev. Martin Crane O.S.A. appointed as Bishop

Diocese of Ballarat established and Rev. Michael O’Connor appointed as Bishop

1877 Roger Vaughan O.S.B becomes Archbishop of Sydney

1878 Arrival of the Jesuits in Sydney

1879 Marist Brothers found St. Joseph’s, Hunters Hill

Fr. E. Torreggiani O.F.M. appointed second bishop of Armidale

1880 Death of Ned Kelly

1881 First permanent St. Vincent de Paul Society established in Australia

1882 Fr. Streele S.J. named Apostolic Administrator of what is now the Diocese of Darwin

1882-1906 Period of Jesuit missions in the Northern Territory

1884 Queensland declared a protectorate over British New Guinea (now Papua)

Patrick Francis Moran appointed Archbishop of Sydney

1885 Archbishop Moran made Cardinal

1889 Opening of St. Patrick’s Seminary, Manly

1890 University of Tasmania established

1891 Foundation of the Australian Labor Party in Barcaldine, Queensland

1891-93 Economic Depression follows 1888 drought

1892 Gold discovered at Kalgoorlie

1893 St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne opened, run by Sisters of Charity

1895 Banjo Paterson writes the words to “Waltzing Matilda”

1897 French Missionaries of the Sacred Heart arrive in Australia

Consecration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne

1901 Federation of Australian States

1906 Beginning of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart missions in the Northern Territory

1907 New Zealand declared a dominion of the British Empire

1909 Death of Mary McKillop

Foundation of the University of Queensland

1911 Foundation of the University of Western Australia

1913 Arrival of Archbishop Daniel Mannix in Melbourne

1914 Beginning of First World War

1915 Australian and New Zealand troops land at Gallipoli (Turkey)

1916 Defeat of First Conscription Referendum

Establishment of the Catholic Women’s League

1917 Defeat of Second Conscription Referendum

James Duhig becomes Archbishop of Brisbane

1918 Newman College Melbourne University opened

1922 Foundation of the Knights of the Southern Cross

1923 Archbishop Mannix founds Corpus Christi College

1924 Establishment of the Central Catholic Library in Melbourne

1928 International Eucharistic Congress, Sydney

1930 Phar Lap wins the Melbourne Cup

1931 Formation of the Campion Society at Melbourne University

First attack on Nazism in the Melbourne Catholic newspaper The Advocate

1932 Sydney Harbour Bridge completed

1934 National Eucharistic Congress, Melbourne

1936 Monsignor Francois-Xavier Gsell of Darwin awarded the Order of the British Empire

1938 Monsignor Francois-Xavier Gsell appointed as Bishop of Darwin

1939 Beginning of World War II

Robert Menzies becomes Prime Minister of Australia

St. Patrick’s Cathedral Melbourne completed

1940 Norman Thomas Gilroy becomes Archbishop of Sydney

1941 “Rats of Tobruk” seize control of Syria

Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour

1942 Japanese invasion of New Guinea, over 100 Catholics martyred during Japanese occupation for continuing to catechise.

1944 Formation of the “Movement” by Bob Santamaria

James McAuley and Harold Stewart publish the ‘Ern Malley” poems

Formation of the Liberal Party by Sir Robert Menzies

1945 Ben Chifley, Australian Prime Minister

End of World War II

Beginning of arrival of European immigrants

1946 Archbishop Gilroy becomes first Australian Cardinal

1948/9 Communists in trade union movement cause industrial unrest

1950 Prime Minister Menzies attempts to ban Communist Party but move declared unconstitutional by the High Court

Bishop Gsell of Darwin awarded the Cross of the L‚gion d’Honneur by the French government

1951 Referendum to ban the Communist Party of Australia defeated

1954 The “Petrov Affair”

1955 Labor Party Split

1956 Olympic Games, Melbourne

1957 Formation of the Democratic Labor Party

1958 Arrival of Ivan Prasko, first Bishop for Ukrainian Catholics

1960 Melbourne doctors John and Evelyn Billings pioneer Natural Family Planning research

1962 Resumption of State Aid to Catholic schools

1963 Death of Archbishop Mannix

1964 James McAuley publishes “Captain Quiros”

1965 Australian troops sent to Vietnam

1966 Menzies retires as Prime Minister

1967 Archbishop James Robert Knox appointed Archbishop of Melbourne

1970 Paul VI visits Australia, consecrates first Papuan-born Bishop

1972 Liberalisation of anti-abortion legislation

1973 Paul VI establishes Maronite diocese in Australia

International Eucharistic Congress Melbourne

1974 Appointment of Dr Thomas Francis Little Archbishop of Melbourne

1975 Whitlam Labor government passes “no-fault” divorce legislation

Whitlam Labor government dismissed by Governor General Sir John Kerr

1986 John Paul II visits Australia

1987 John Paul II establishes a Melkite diocese in Australia

1991 Foundation of the Australian Catholic University

1992 Foundation of St. John Vianney Seminary, Wagga Wagga

1995 John Paul II visits Australia for Beatification of Mary McKillop

John Paul II visits Papua New Guinea for Beatification of Peter Turot, martyr during the Japanese occupation

1996 Appointment of Dr. George Pell as Archbishop of Melbourne

St Francis Cathedral Adelaide completed

1997 Euthanasia legislation of Northern Territory defeated by Andrews Bill

1998 Death of Bob Santamaria

1999 Major General Peter Cosgrove leads deployment of Australian troops to East Timor

Senator Brian Harradine brokers Native Title Agreement

2000 Opening of Corpus Christi seminary, Carlton

Opening of Catholic Theological College, East Melbourne by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago

St Mary’s Cathedral Sydney completed


© Tracey Rowland 2000